NORTHBOROUGH – Community members spoke out against a recent decision to remove the Halloween costume parade from taking place during the school day at Northborough elementary schools.
“Personally, I was really upset that this changed within community without anybody in the community given the ability to really speak to it,” said resident Kurt Kitzmann during the Oct. 4 Northborough School Committee meeting.
Resident Edward Reiss said he called into the meeting, which was held via Zoom, to hear about the decision.
“Because, frankly, I don’t understand it. I don’t understand why it’s being taken away from my son. I don’t understand the reasons behind it,” Reiss said.
As of Oct. 6, 607 people signed a petition asking to reinstate the parade. According to the petition, the school district had sent out a communication saying that Halloween celebrations would be integrated into PTO and community events outside of the school day.
“I understand that the Halloween parade was a wonderful memory-making experience for many students and families,” said Superintendent Greg Martineau. “However, this is not the case for many students.”
According to Martineau, last year 12% of elementary students didn’t participate in the parade, which is about 120 children. He said the students didn’t participate for a variety of reasons, including being scared of costumes, being anxious about marching in a parade and Halloween not aligned with the family’s beliefs.
While the parade is 20 minutes, Martineau said the parade “consumed” an educator’s entire afternoon to get the students organized and in their costumes.
“Which does take time away from learning,” he said. “Halloween is not a topic that’s contained in the district curriculum.”
School Committee Chair Kelly Guenette said the School Committee has received “numerous” amounts of comments from community members about the decision. She said the School Committee doesn’t have a say in the day-to-day operations of the school district, which is the responsibility of Martineau, principal and other administrators.
“The recent decision to remove [the] elementary school Halloween costume parade from occurring during the school day does not violate any policy that we currently have,” she said. “While some individual members of the School Committee may be disappointed in the decision, the principals, superintendent and administration have the authority to make the changes and decisions that they feel better prioritize the well-being and learning of all students.”
Kitzmann noted that other towns and schools have also made this decision.
“But the fact is that we are a small town and we have our own personality,” he said. “I think before this was taken away from our children and our culture and something that we do, we should have been given the ability to have a say on it. I don’t think that was done.”
He also argued that it wasn’t fair how it was timed because there wasn’t a lot of time for community members to voice their objections and organize to get feedback on what others thought of the decision.
“I don’t think that this administration has really put how the community feels in the forefront and what decision that we would have made, and I don’t think that you guys have the ability to make that decision for us,” Kitzmann said.
Martineau said feedback from parents that the process wasn’t transparent was “fair.”
He said there was “a lot of thought and discussion” last year and earlier this school year.
“However, parents weren’t privy to that or we didn’t communicate that clearly. So, I think that is fair feedback that we received,” Martineau said. “It’s never the district’s intention to make decisions in isolation. Parents are our partners in the process.”
He said the district will reconsider the decision. Martineau and the principals will be meeting next week to discuss next steps.